On 17 May 2023, Judge Simms wrote a letter to a number of State and public institutions in which he expressed the “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children who are in care”, drew attention to the placement of children in unsuitable (unapproved) special emergency residential placements (due to a lack of care placements) and called for “immediate and coordinated action” to remedy the current crisis.
Judge Simms addressed the letter to the following Ministers and Public Bodies:
- The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
- The Minister for Health
- The Minister for Justice
- The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
- The Ombudsman for Children
- The Chairperson and Board of the Child and Family Agency
- The Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
- The Director of the State Claims Agency
- The Chairperson and Board of HIQA
He also provided a copy of six reports alongside his letter. This pack of documents comprised:
- Guardian ad litem Report of 12 March 2023 in relation to Child A
- Tusla Report prepared by the National Private Placement Team of 17 February 2023
- Tusla Report prepared for Judge Simms of 28 February 2023
- Affidavit of Eilidh Mac Nab (Tusla’s Regional Chief Officer of the Regional Oversight Group for Special Emergency Arrangements) of 21 April 2023
- Tusla Report on Special Emergency Arrangements Figures of 25 April 2023
- Tusla Strategic Plan for Residential Care Services for Children and Young People 2022-2025
Judge Simms also sent a copy of the letter and accompanying documents to the Child Law Project and provided us with permission to publish the letter. In the interest of bringing transparency and accountability to child care proceedings, we have pasted a copy of the letter below.
In the accompanying documentation, Tusla notes that “as a result of insufficient [care] placements […] there has been an increased need to put in place Special Emergency Arrangements (SEAs) to ensure an immediate place of safety for these children/young people”. SEAs refer to “emergency settings where a child/young person is accommodated in a non-statutory or non-procured placements eg hotel, B&B, Holiday Centre, Activity Centre, Tusla non-registered property or Privately Leased property”. The child/young person is supervised by either Tusla staff, private provider or community & voluntary provider; has an allocated social worker and an up-to-date care plan in place. As of 25 April 2023 there were 55 children in care in SEAs and a further 78 unaccompanied minors seeking international protection in SEAs.